Architect assures Belgian city that plan to rebuild frietkots with shiny facades will also preserve chip stall traditions
The frite, or frieten, as they say in the Dutch-speaking north of Belgium, is a national institution. But given the skinny chip’s veneration, whether enjoyed with a dab of mayonnaise or taken au naturel, the ramshackle appearance of many of the frietkots from which they are dispensed around Brussels has been a source of shame for the city council.
Belgian passions have been stirred by the frite in the past. A suggestion last year from the European commission that friteries might want to blanche their potatoes before frying to prevent formation of a carcinogenic compound was met by claims from a tourist minister that the EU was committing a crime against the people. Devotees swear by the double frying of bintje potatoes in beef or horse fat to achieve an ideal combination of succulent centre and crispy exterior.
Hick understood the perils of meddling. Inspired by the 1972 book Learning from Las Vegas, (by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour) an architectural bible that urges his trade to dispense with the grand and appeal to local tastes, he kept the standard box shape of the much loved friteries.
The characteristic awning and glass bar have also remained the same. The facades, however, will be mirrored, and the neon signage and colour of the interior tiles will reflect each shack’s local area.
The €50,000-a-shack scheme also makes space for solar panels on the roof to provide energy for the signage (it is more ecological to stick with gas for the fryers), and there will be a rain-harvesting system that collects water in a tank at the back for washing down the frietkot.
The frietkots are owned by the vendors, while the council owns the sites. After the demolition and reconstruction work, the shacks will be owned by the council and let at no extra cost to the former owners. It is hoped all 10 shacks will be complete by 2019.